Everyone has experienced accidental slips, trips and falls and in most cases the result was some bumps, bruises and scrapes, however, for the frail and elderly population a slip, trip and fall can lead to a worse quality of life, increased medical problems and in many cases even death.
Slips and trips that result in an unintentional fall, is the leading cause of injury-related deaths for individuals aged 65 and older, according to Injury Facts 2016, the statistical report on unintentional injuries created by the National Safety Council.
Slips and trips will cause a person to lose their balance, which can lead to the dreaded fall. Before we can discuss the potential causes of, and how to avoid, an accidental slip and/or trip, we must first understand the difference between the 2:
- A slip occurs when there is not enough traction between your footwear and the surface you are on.
- A trip occurs when your foot hits an object unexpectedly.
Slips, trips and falls happen to anyone at any age; however, in the frail and elderly population the risk of falling is greater. This increased risk may be due to:
- Reduced mobility
- Weakness due to surgery, injury or disease
- Loss of muscle tone
- Loss of strength due to decreased bone mass
- Limited activity
- Balance issues
- Numbness in feet and legs
- Dizziness from medication side effects or disease process
- Visual problems
- Memory loss
- Disorientation and confusion in new environments
- Fear of falling
Traumatic brain injury, hip and other bone fractures are just a few results that can occur from a fall. These types of injuries will severely impact the elders’ independence and way of life possibly leading to major changes in their living situation. If you question the safety of an elder in their own home, it might be a good time to step up and do an in-home fall-prevention assessment.
Fall Prevention Strategies
Fall prevention is critical to help keep elders safe in their own home. Below is a list of fall prevention strategies that are recommended to help prevent accidental falls:
- Remove scatter rugs, tape them down, or secure them to the floor
- Use nightlights or motion sensor lights at night and have good lighting during the day.
- Keep flashlights handy for emergencies
- Replace burnt-out light bulbs promptly
- Remove obstacles in walkways and remove clutter
- Uneven walking surfaces, wrinkled carpeting should be removed or repaired.
- Close doors and drawers to cabinets and cupboards
- Wipe up spills immediately
- Keep paths and walkways free of snow and ice
- Use non-slip adhesive strips to stairs and ramps
- Install grab bars in bathrooms and shower stalls
- Install nonslip mats in tub/shower areas
- Wear comfortable and properly fitted footwear
- Do not put cable, phone or electrical cords in walkways
- Put continuous handrails on both sides of stairs
- Keep items at a level that can be reached easily
- Watch your step and pay attention to your surroundings
- If a cane or walker is needed for stability, encourage its’ use at all times.
- Be patient and do not rush
- Do not carry heavy loads
- If dizziness occurs, stop, take a deep breath and move slowly
- Purchase an alert system (pendants, watches, and various types of emergency alert systems are available) so if a fall does occur, the individual can seek help quickly
- For individuals that are high fall risks, purchase a fall detection alert system
Focusing on the fall prevention strategies listed above and making the necessary changes in the home environment can help to decrease the risk of fall related injuries and keep our elders safe at home.